The Lakeshores Largest Employer is Getting Larger: Gentex Plans $300M Expansion in West Michigan
Written by: Cassandra Lybrink, The Holland Sentinel
The largest employer in Ottawa County has announced an enormous expansion project.
Gentex, headquartered in Zeeland, is a high-tech supplier for the global automotive, aerospace, and commercial fire protection industries. The company received approval for several financial incentives, essential to funding the project, from the Michigan Strategic Fund on Tuesday, July 26.
"We've been working with the state for close to a year," Chief Financial Officer Kevin Nash told The Sentinel. "Coming out of COVID, we experienced quite a bit of growth. I don't want to say we were bursting at the seams, but we knew, in the next 18-24 months, we needed more manufacturing capacity."
The expansion includes three separate projects, all in Zeeland and Zeeland Township:
- A new 250,000-square-foot manufacturing facility on the company's North Riley Campus in Zeeland Township
- A 350,000-square-foot expansion of the company's distribution center at its North Riley Campus in Zeeland Township
- A 60,000-square-foot expansion of the company's processing facility on State Street in Zeeland
In total, Nash said, the company plans to invest at least $300 million and create at least 500 new jobs over a period of three years.
"If we're successful, we should be able to grow beyond that," he said.
Other states considered for the project were South Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama, Ohio, and Virginia.
"Our original preference was obviously to be in West Michigan," Nash said. "We've been here since 1974 and we have over 5,000 employees here already. But the bigger you get in a concentrated area, the more risk you create.
"We had some challenges during COVID because we were shut down from being able to manufacture. We're a global supplier, and some parts of the world weren't shut down at the same time, which triggered the conversation of expanding in other areas. But in the end, we love Michigan, and it's treated us well, and the incentives worked for us."
The Michigan Strategic Fund offered support in the form of a $5.5 million performance-based grant through the Michigan Business Development Program, a $1.89 million grant through Jobs Ready Michigan and a 15-year exemption from the State Essential Services Assessment — valued at $3.8 million.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer shared her support of the project shortly after approval.
“We can attract bold investments from cutting-edge firms like Gentex because of our bipartisan collaboration on economic development legislation last year, which has already led to billions of dollars in investment in Michigan and thousands of jobs," Whitmer said in a statement.
"Gentex is a longstanding Michigan company, and we are grateful to them for expanding their presence in Michigan. Let's keep working together to grow our economy, build on our rich automotive legacy, and create good-paying, high-skill jobs for Michiganders.”
The project will provide Gentex with increased capacity for glass processing; the manufacturing of auto-dimming interior and exterior mirrors, displays and electronics for automotive and aerospace applications; and the development of new technologies for the fire protection industry.
The expansion is the latest in a series of efforts from the state to position itself as the epicenter of autonomous and electric vehicle manufacturing in the U.S. — coming on the heels of LG Energy Solution's $1.7 billion investment in a massive new plant, warehouse, and other supporting buildings in Holland.
LG Energy Solution makes batteries to power electric and hybrid vehicles. The projects combined could bring over 1,700 well-paying jobs to West Michigan in the coming years.
Zeeland and Zeeland Township anticipate support of the Gentex expansion through a 12-year Industrial Facilities Tax Exemption.
“The city of Zeeland congratulates Gentex once again on their growth, and we especially thank them for choosing to expand their operations in the Zeeland area,” said Zeeland City Manager Tim Klunder. “We are blessed and fortunate to have a corporate partner such as Gentex that desires to be in our community."